Staff being asked to go into the workplace unnecessarily, Siptu says

Union urges all public and private sector employers to facilitate working from home

Intreo social welfare office. File photo. Photograph: Eric Luke

Intreo social welfare office. File photo. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Workers in both the private and public sectors are being asked by their employers to go into their workplaces unnecessarily rather than operate from home, the country’s largest trade union, Siptu, has said.

The union on Thursday urged all employers to facilitate working from home wherever possible in line with public health advice during the pandemic.

The majority of employers were proactive in assisting employees to work from home, Siptu’s public administration and community division organiser, Adrian Kane, said. “However many Siptu members, in both the public and private sectors, have been in contact with the union in recent days expressing concern that they are being asked to report for work in their workplaces in circumstances where working from home could be facilitated.

The union said employers need to put public health above all other concerns. “This means facilitating working from home wherever possible and keeping vital services intact by ensuring that safety plans are reviewed in light of the increased transmissibility of the new strains of the virus.”

Under Level 5 restrictions, which are to be reviewed at the end of the month, people are to work from home unless it is necessary for work “which is an essential health, social care or other essential service and cannot be done from home”.

Vaccine

Mr Kane also said a coherent approach in determining the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine programme to frontline and essential workers must be put in place.

“Obviously health workers must be the first in line. However, many other workers also have legitimate reasons why they should be classified as ‘essential workers’ and given priority access to the vaccine. These include workers in sectors such as education, pharmaceutical production, meat and food processing, local authorities, retail and transport.”

Earlier this week Fórsa, the union representing the largest number of State employees, maintained that some public service employers were flouting Covid-19 rules by requiring staff to attend the workplace. The union said far too many public servants were being required to travel to work to perform roles that could and should be done remotely. It said the tone of the guidelines issued to public bodies resulted in “macho-management” which “fails to put public safety first by properly distinguishing between those who need to be in the workplace right now and those who don’t”.

The union maintained that across all sectors, including the civil service and local authorities, staff who could operate from home were being asked to go to the workplace.

Fórsa said it had “repeatedly raised the issue of unnecessary workplace attendance in social protection, where all Intreo offices remain open and back-of-house staff continue to be required to attend offices”.

The Department of Social Protection said on Tuesday the services it provided were “essential” . However, it said it was doing all it could to minimise the necessity for staff to attend their offices or engage directly with clients.

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